Hoping to expand it global reach, U.S.-based lithium-ion battery maker Ener1 has signed a memorandum of understanding with Itochu Corp., a diversified global trading company that leads the world market in distribution of specialized equipment and materials needed to produce Li-ion battery cells, Ener1 said in a Feb. 2 press release. Itochu, which has strategic partnerships and equity ownership in the Japanese automotive community, will serve as Ener1's Japanese sales, marketing, and development partner for Japanese automotive OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers. The agreement also sets the stage for Itochu to introduce Ener1's batteries as an energy-storage solution for solar power, a market in which Itochu is aggressively seeking to develop its business. Ener1 says it currently is the only company with the capacity to produce large-format automotive Li-ion batteries on a commercial scale in the U.S. It also says it currently has the manufacturing footprint in place to produce enough batteries each year to store 1.17 MW·h of electricity, with plans that could potentially expand that output to 3.12 MW-h annually. The MOU contemplates Itochu's possible extension of an equipment line of credit to Ener1 to fund this anticipated expansion.